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Saturday, October 30, 2010

10/30 Final preparations in San Diego

We are in San Diego and wow is it a beautiful city. I had forgotten how large the bay is in San Diego. There are loads of marinas and mooring fields here and a huge military presence. As we were motoring in I was suddenly feeling rather patriotic with all the helicopters flying overhead, the military transports filled with uniformed men headed offshore and all the radio traffic between copters, aircraft carrier and boats.

All the radio traffic gave us the great bonus of unexpectedly hooking us up with Larry and Karen on Panta Rhei. As we motored south from Dana Point we heard the military announcing that they were doing live fire operations offshore. We figured we had better double check the coordinates before we blundered in unannounced. So we called in on VHF 16. As we signed off happy to know we weren't about to be shot out of the water by friendly fire we were totally surprised to hear a reply back....."Island Bound, Island Bound, Island Bound this is Panta Rhei. Come in."

Karen and Larry lived down F-dock from us at Shilshole and left just ten days ahead of us for SE Alaska. We ran into them just once in SE, unexpectedly in the little town of Elfin Cove and we had been wondering when we would find them again. Turns out that they were en route to San Diego the same day we were making our passage there and had picked up our VHF transmission. Their friends Kirk and Debbie on Kela were in San Diego and had already made arrangements for them to stay at Marina Cortez with them. We called and were given a d-dock slip just a few boats down. Plus they got a great deal of only $25/night which was passed on to us as well. When we arrived I had to give them a hard time. After all, we were just 30minutes behind them but they had a ten day head start!!

They had another friend, Ron an ex commodore of the Puget Sound Cruisers Club who was in town on business so we all loaded into his rental car and went to dinner in down town San Diego to a great seafood place right next to The Midway. After dinner we all went to Kirk and Debbie's boat and talked till nearly one am. Kirk and Debbie did a circumnavigation with their kids a few years ago and so the night was filled with laughter and lots of sharing. Were going out again tonight and I have been looking forward to it all day. Kept my spirits up despite a day of 5 loads of laundry and hours of boat cleaning. Trying to get everything ready for our departure.

In addition to dinners out our time in SD is filled with some pretty big to do lists. This will be our last place to "easily" get parts and supplies. We won't be doing a huge provisioning stop here because there are quite a few rules governing importation of fruits, vegetable and meats into Mexico. Plus there is a big shiny Costco in Ensenada!! But instead we are trying to anticipate things we will need for a handful of projects. Which means the bikes have come out and we have been all over the San Diego area looking for goodies. On the list is: bigger dingy wheels (to make beach landings easier) a fix for the leaky dinghy drain, clearing papers from the Mexican Consulate, Mexican fishing licences, a new lap top, printer cartridges, electrical connectors, make a gasket material, peanut butter, a stop at the local Kinko's to make 12 copies each of a pile of documents and Fed Ex to pick up a delivery of parts and pieces to make magnetic mosquito curtains! We also need a new bilge switch pump, some Imodium, starboard sheets to finish our aft deck seats and laundry detergent. Quite the eclectic mix.

In addition we are trying to talk with some local companies to help us either fix or replace our radar which has decided it is only going to work every other time we need it and a Ham radio/electronics specialists because we are still having trouble with our SSB. Lots to do but we are not in any rush so we will just plug through and then go.

We are definitely beginning to get excited about being so close to Mexico. We are a mere 65miles away from clearing Customs. Somehow entering Mexico seems a bigger deal than going into BC. We have been pouring over the guide books and doing a lot of day dreaming. We are so close. Habla en espanol? Si, hablo en espanol muy poco.

San Diego was another big shift in the weather and in the "feel" of being this far south. Suddenly it is warm, mid 80's, and much dryer. I saw my first gecko yesterday and am packing away another round of cool weather clothes and searching for the shorts and tank tops I stashed some where.

We will be here at least until Monday but will likely stay another day or two as we finish making our way through the lists. We will write as soon as we have an Internet connection in Mexico. Until then enjoy that lovely cool fall weather you are having and I will think of you while I work on my lists and my tan.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

10/15 Newport Beach etc.

Greetings to everyone from Avalon, again.

I haven’t written lately because there hasn’t been much to share. We are back in Avalon after nearly two weeks in Newport Beach. We came back to Avalon because they have an off season special:buy two nights of moorage, get five nights free! As full time cruisers we are always looking for a way to save a few bucks. Avalon is a sweet town and we enjoy it but its small and we have spent a lot of time here. By now there isn't much to really get excited about. The weather has been shifting into fall and most of the tourists and virtually all of the boaters have moved on. Essentially we are treading water waiting for Hurricane season to be over and for the 2010 Baha Ha Ha to get underway. The Baha Ha Ha is tremendously popular. There are some 200 boats signed up for 2010 and they all take off from San Diego on the 24th. They make just two stops between San Diego and Cabo and we hope to stay out of their path.

We arrived in Newport Beach under grey skies and rain. In fact they set a rain record while we were there, 0.33” in 24hours, the most since 1916 or some such. Heck, they don’t know rain. After 49 years in Seattle and the summer in SE Alaska this is NOT rain. Try Ketchikans’ more than 230” in one year!!! In any event it seemed to chase all the Newport/LA folks inside and our first two days here felt like a ghost town. Its all rather odd because Newport is a huge port. There are more than 2000 mooring balls here and another 2000 moored boats.

Newport Beach was an interesting stay. In the entire 12days we were in Newport Beach we hardly had any interactions with other boaters at all! We didn’t meet any other cruisers, were not invited anywhere or given any suggestions about places to visit or things to do. As we walked the streets and neighborhoods almost no one even spoke to us. The whole time we were there we had exactly one 30second hello one evening with a single fellow in his dingy as he was arriving and we were leaving the public dock and one conversation with a local who happened to be at the pump-out dock when we came alongside. The highlight was a visit from Chris and Liz for dinner Thursday and another trip to West Marine.

The whole Newport Beach harbors waterway is lined with homes. Most in the multi million dollar range. It is home to “The OC” and to Balboa Island. It is all very touristy and the homes are gorgeous. This time of year many are vacant. Once the sun came out again the people came popping out of their holes like gophers and it began to feel a little less surreal. It is beautiful…..and motoring around in our dingy it has been fun peering into the massive homes. Being on a mooring ball means all of our touring has started in the dingy. There are public docks scattered about to use and we have taken full advantage of them. Unfortunatly Newport is pretty divided into the have and the have-nots and the haves’ have decided that the have-nots will also have no public docks on their side of town. So seriously there are only public docks around the inner peninsula, part way to the north and a couple around Balboa Island. There are none on the east side at all. On our first foray out we also realized that every dingy is locked tight at the public dock. So before we could venture further we had to work out a lock system -no problem we needed to do that anyway but it just lent a feeling of unwelcome to the place.

It really is beautiful here with all the gorgeous homes packed in to every inch of every little island and waterway. Once the sun came out the harbor began to fill with boaters; kayakers, crew boats, paddle boats, dragon boat teams and old Avalon speed boats. Also everywhere in the harbor are the California classic the Duffy boat. These little guys are to southern California what gondolas are to Venis. They are short, wide, flat boats powered by electricity. Lots of cute names like “Watts up” and “Ohm Sweet Ohm.”

Once the sun came out and the weekend rolled around the big boats came out to play. The harbor became choked with huge yachts filled with the beautiful people of Orange County and captains in fancy hats. All the big private yachts, party boats, fishing boats, tiny little vintage Avalon’s and Duffy’s and high speed cigarette boats all parading around in the waterways carful to stay below 5knots!

The rest of our time at Newport Beach was filled with reading and movies, taco Tuesdays and walking the neighborhoods of Balboa Island. The mooring balls at Newport Beach are only $5/night and their Taco Tuesdays came around on Fridays too so our stay there was good for the budget right up until we found our way to Minnie’s -Cosa Mesa’s version of Seattle Second Wave. We managed to spend a couple of hundred dollars there in only three bags! My great find was a pair of 10x -30x50 binoculars. I have been hinting that a pair of high power binocs would make a great birthday present. Actually I have also been begging for an old fashioned pirate spy glass too. The old style brass monocle -small and compact enough to take with us when we do dingy recon! (I am going to keep looking for one of those!) I unearthed the binoculars in the bottom of a bin at Minnie’s with a price tag of only $49! It didn’t take much to talk Bill into the splurge. In addition we got some deck paint so hopefully one of our next projects will be getting the deck and cockpit painted.

So, we are hunkered down and drying off in Avalon. We will spend a week here then head on south with probable stops at Dana Point, Mission Bay and San Diego then after the 1st we will try and clear customs in Ensenada! Look out Mexico here we come.


Saturday, October 2, 2010

9/30 A rescue at sea

Cherry Cove, Catalina Island

This morning we left Avalon on Catalina Island headed north towards the Isthmus. The plan was to go to one of the outer coves for a few days and maybe hook up with Liz and Chris who had plans to hop over to Catalina from San Pedro to grab another taste of this lovely late fall weather. We did not plan on coming to the Isthmus because this weekend is Buccaneer Days which is a huge annual three day festival that we had already been “warned” about. Though we are two whole days early for the party all the boats within sight are flying their pirate colors and coves are already filling with cannon fire and the sound of “aaaaargghhhhh.”

We were about an hour out of Avalon and the wind had flaked out and our sail had turned into a motor trip. We had just finished our daily “instruciones en espanol” when we saw a jet ski in the water off our port bow. We slowed and moved in closer but couldn’t see anyone with the ski. As we got closer we were both keeping one eye on the ski and scanning the waves for a rider. When we about 30 feet away we saw movement and then could see a man hanging on to the seat just his head above water. The ski itself was on its side and seemed to be pretty low in the water.

Everything then started happening in fast forward. We stopped the boat and began working to bring our rescuee aboard IB. He kept saying he was fine as we got a line on the ski and tethered it to our boat. But by the time we got him to the boat it was obvious that he was in worse shape than he thought. Together we managed to drag him safely aboard.

He had come alone, by jet ski from Dana Point on his way to Buccaneer Days. He did have friends who were coming along behind on a sailboat and he was planning on meeting up with them in Cherry Cove but they wern't in visual or radio contact once he jetted out of Dana Point. His name was Eric, an ex marine and after running out of fuel he had been in the water for more than two hours. All that time He had been struggling with the ski and the tide trying to get closer to shore but instead was being pushed farther and farther offshore and down island. He had seen lots of boats but no one had seen his waving arms or heard his shouting voice or the flash of his signal mirror.

He was actually pretty well prepared when he left Dana Point. He had worked out how much gas he needed, carried a brand new water proof VHF, a chem light, flares and the signal mirror along with a camel pack of water. Unfortunately the radio didn’t work within minutes of leaving, the double flare was a dud and since the chemical light is useless in daylight he had wisely decided to save it to signal after dark if he was still needed rescue. Apparently his calculations for fuel didn’t include the increased consumption in the mid channel heavy seas and he ran out of gas about 5 miles from Cherry Cove.

Bill actually had seen the flash but thought it was from fishermen somewhere close in to shore and paid it little mind. Eric told us he had considered letting the ski go in his attempt make it in but when he saw a blue shark nearby he decided to stick with the ski. After the shark he was beginning to consider tying himself to the ski since “at least someone would probably eventually find the ski.” Had the wind not died on us we would have been on another tack entirely and considering we were nearly on top of him when we spotted the ski it is a lucky thing that we found him at all

By now the once non existent winds had begun to build. I began a series of calls to the USCG to report our find in case his friends were looking for him (they weren’t.) He insisted he was fine but as we worked to secure the Jet Ski for a tow he was pretty shaky. I gave him a banana, a Cliff Bar and then some hot chocolate and we got him out of half of his wet suit and into a warm dry coat to try and stop the shaking while we continued to try and get the Jet Ski secured for the tow in. The Ski was taking on more and more water and we were hoping to not have to leave it behind as a hazard to navigation.

We tried several things to bring the ski in. If we towed it too far behind its nose dug in deep so we tried tying it close in off our outboard lift mount. Keeping the nose up helped us a bit but then we decide to try and get some fuel in so we could start it up and hopefully use the bilge switch to pump out the water that was bogging it down. That required mixing up some 100:1 fuel and then lowering our dingy in the rising wind and sea. There was no way the fueling could be a one man job in the waves so both Eric and Bill had to get into the dingy. They got the gas in and the ski sputtered and tried to catch but the ski has no neutral so Eric ended up back in the water hoping to be able to ride it in a few circles in order to get the water out. At which point the ski died completely and Eric was no adrift in the chop -again. I quickly untied the dink and Bill went after him as I yelled at Eric that if we had to rescue him twice in one day the price was definitely going to go up!

Eventually we got everyone was back aboard but the seas had continued to build so it seemed better now to tow our dink rather than trying to raise it on the davits again. So in the end though Eric kept insisting we just cut her loose we kept the ski tied close , the dink on a long painter and slowly motored in. . By the time we hooked up with the Harbor Patrol boat in Isthmus the ski was laying about 75% underwater .

Erics friends caught up with us just as we entered isthmus cove and we began following them to their mooring in Cherry Cove. At the mouth of Cherry cove the Harbor Patrol took hold of the Jet Ski and Eric transferred to their boat and we were able to cinch in our dink and with our new found proficiency with the So. Ca. mooring system we settled like pros onto a mooring.

Erics' grateful friends invited us over for Gumbo so we boarded La Dulce Vita for a pirate party. It was only Thursday afternoon but already the pirate paraphernalia was coming out in force and it was ummm, interesting to be sucked into the mayhem. The party was in full swing as the bowls were filled with Teresa’s stellar Louisiana Gumbo and the volume slowly increased and the booze flowed around us. We begged off about 6pm as their crew debated a trip out of the cove and around the cliffs to the "big" party at the Isthmus but it was good to know Eric was safe and sound with friends.

~hugs~ kat

9/28 Bottle nose dolphin encounter.

As we motored from Isthmus Cove to Avalon I experienced an up close and personal visit with a bottle nose dolphin. The bottle nose is the large grey dolphin of “Flipper” fame and are the ones used by the navy for the top secret “navy stuff” as well as what you would see used for “therapy” and “dolphin encounters” at water parks around the world. There were other types of dolphins nearby, the shier darker variety as usual stayed off in the periphery. Every hopeful though I worked my way forward and was surprised when a big grey body jetted towards our bow.

I stood leaning down over the bow, grinning and amazed as he paused below me. He was very large compared to other dolphins we have had visit and he really seemed focused on me. He stayed there below our bow pulpit rolling and turning to look up at me. He wasn’t playing in the wake but more just sort of resting there in the stream and looking into my eyes. Four or five times he dove deep away from the boat and I thought he was gone but then he would return, roll his belly to me and again look straight into my eyes. If I moved to port he would shift and roll to port keeping his eyes locked on mine. If I stepped to starboard he followed with a roll and a tail flip. I could hear his clicking and whistling as I talked to him and told him how beautiful he was.

I suddenly realized I was missing a great photo opportunity but had a strong feeling that if I stepped away from the bow he would loose interest and be gone. After about five minutes I called to Bill to try and bring me a camera. As I waited for Bill to go below I was cursing myself for not bringing the camera on deck that morning like usual. Then as soon as I stepped back to grab the camera my new friend was gone. He spun off and dropped away, disappearing into the blue. No photo op, a dolphin encounter just for me and my memories. I can’t wait till it happens again!